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Before IMDb, there was The Guide
August 19, 2014 3:12 PM   Subscribe

For over 25 years, film critic Leonard Maltin (along with a team of contributors and editors) have produced what has been the Bible of movie geeks everywhere in his annual movie guide. The 2015 edition that will be released next month will be his last. The Dissolve has offered their own eulogy. (The folks at MST3k were also fans, as evidenced to three memorable moments that pay tribute to the man, the book and his not entirely accurate rating system.)
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (31 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the Dissolve piece:

For me, it wasn’t just a place to turn when a strange movie popped up on cable. When I was bored, I would open it up to a random page and just start reading.

I've long since realized that the things I did as a kid that were weird to others only made me unique on a micro level -- that there were people doing the same elsewhere. But when you get certain very specific examples like this, it's still oddly comforting.

The Maltin movies guide was important to me not just for these reasons but because it is one of my earliest examples of me rejecting an adult expert's opinion on something. I disagreed with him on so many things VERY STRONGLY but it made me think about why he was wrong in ways I didn't often do at that age.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:25 PM on August 19 [10 favorites]


(It's also a pretty smart business move to announce this year will be the last prior to it coming out in order to milk that nostalgia rather than just letting it fade away.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:26 PM on August 19


Reading about this inspired me to find out whether they're still printing the Video Hound; apparently they are!
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:28 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Before the ubiquity of the Internet this was a regular annual purchase of mine. What I could never understand though why it was always named for the next year. The 2015 edition? It is still 2014 and none of the movies listed in the guide will be released in 2015... Of course it is a publishing gimmick but it kinda irked me. Silly I know given its depth of coverage of movies.
posted by vac2003 at 3:35 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


I was so happy as a kid when mom bought me one of the first years of his guide, loved it, went through it so carefully underlining all the movies I had seen, circling the movies I wanted to see, adding all my own comments.

I was so sad when she bought me the next edition, I had no idea this was't a one time thing, I was not smart.
posted by Cosine at 3:40 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


I also just randomly read in our copy of the book; it's how I found out about (e.g.) Sleuth, which I adore, and Branded to Kill, which I still haven't seen… These things really are great for browsing.
posted by kenko at 3:51 PM on August 19


If dim recollection serves, in its baby days IMDb actually licensed Maltin's Guide for basic summaries and reviews.
posted by The Confessor at 3:58 PM on August 19


How's Doug going to play the Leonard Maltin game now?

Maltin was recently a guest on WTF, and he and Marc Maron discussed the creation of the Guide in the early days. The episode's fairly new, so it's not behind a paywall yet.
posted by painquale at 3:59 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


First he kills his app, now the book? I guess crowd-sourcing with no quality control is beating the idea of having a point of view.
posted by Megafly at 4:05 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Well nowadays you can go on RT and get instant links to all the critics reviews of a new movie. I can understand why his guide struggled to compete with that on a yearly basis.

I hope he keeps publishing books with his thoughts and reappraisals of older movies though, I think that is where the value of a considerate critic is to be found.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 4:11 PM on August 19


A point of view which gave Laserblast two and a half stars.
posted by stevis23 at 4:19 PM on August 19


I never had Maltin's guide but I read the Movies on TV book religiously as a teen, circling all of the movies that I watched and then obsessively reading the TV listings from the sunday paper to see what movies were airing that week.
posted by octothorpe at 4:28 PM on August 19


I remember getting the TV Week Sunday supplement in the newspaper, then scanning every movie shown to see if there was one I wanted to see.

Pre-VCR.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:37 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


A point of view which gave Laserblast two and a half stars.
posted by stevis23 at 4:19 PM on August 19 [+] [!]


Well Ebert's had a lot of questionable reviews over the decades but he is still, beyond his death, important and deserves to be so.
posted by basicchannel at 4:37 PM on August 19


We used to play a version of fictionary (aka balderdash) with the guide.
posted by Area Man at 4:38 PM on August 19


Before IMDb, there was The Guide

Precisely. Before we had ever heard of the imdb, this was exactly how we settled the "What have I seen that guy in?" questions.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:43 PM on August 19


In the VHS days, besides a copy of Maltin, my household had a copy of the UK-based Halliwell's Film Guide.
posted by larrybob at 5:17 PM on August 19


His episode of WTF was pretty good.
posted by entropicamericana at 5:17 PM on August 19


The magic combination: BOMB rating + "inevitable cult following" = baked late-nite genius cinematic artwork.

That said, the nice concise little plot summaries were often perfectly thought out. I vaguely recall The Rapture described as a film "that goes where angels fear to tread".
posted by ovvl at 5:24 PM on August 19


my household had a copy of the UK-based Halliwell's Film Guide.

Halliwell himself was pretty snarky, and only loved things like dusty old Ealing Comedies, and mostly didn't care about contemporary cinema. He could also be really sharp and hilarious at times.
posted by ovvl at 5:36 PM on August 19


We had these by the couch growing up. I don't think we bought a new edition every year, but every few. Along with the TV Guide, which we bought every week, they were essential in our house. I enjoyed the information and the pithy, concise reviews. (I remember some movies had slightly longer ones, but maybe that's not true.)

I mentioned this on FB and my mom had forgotten about them. I had too until I saw this post. It's just amazing how things just kind of fade into the background.

I'm still sort of sad to see it go, even if I was surprised it was still being published.
posted by darksong at 5:48 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


The Confessor: "If dim recollection serves, in its baby days IMDb actually licensed Maltin's Guide for basic summaries and reviews."

Yeah, I remember that too.
posted by octothorpe at 6:17 PM on August 19


The one I purchased steadily through most of the nineties was the Video Movie Guide by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter. I'd keep it in my car and if I passed by a Blockbuster doing a $2 previously viewed sale, i'd grab it and go in to see what obscurities I could find.

The last edition I got was 2002, which I still keep in my car for sentimental reasons.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:36 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


My elementary school was basically a series of apartment buildings converted into classrooms, where each room was used for multiple subjects throughout the day. When I was bored during classes that happened to be held in the library, I'd find the Movie Guide they had and thumb through reading about movies I'd likely never see or even think about again. But it started the habit of obsessively reading the entries for movies I had just seen, a role that IMDb now fills. I was never able to just watch something and leave it at that though. I had to find out what The Guide said.
posted by downtohisturtles at 6:45 PM on August 19


For me, it wasn’t just a place to turn when a strange movie popped up on cable. When I was bored, I would open it up to a random page and just start reading.

This was exactly how I found out about Eraserhead. Years later, in high school, I got a bootleg VHS copy off ebay for $40. The past is a different country.
posted by griphus at 8:03 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


When doing a crossword, I don't like popping onto the Net every few minutes for an answer so I make sure that I have a couple of reference books lying around. One that has been a MUST have for years has been Maltin's Guide!
posted by TDavis at 8:27 PM on August 19


Ah, this brings back memories. The Leonard Maltin guides were very well used and utilised in our house back in the 90s - and probably the early 2000s. To the point I remember some of them fell apart they were so well thumbed-through.
posted by crossoverman at 8:54 PM on August 19


How's Doug going to play the Leonard Maltin game now?

For those not in the know, referring to Doug Loves Movies, one of my go-to podcasts.

Since the app was killed off earlier this year (meaning it still worked, but without updates for any current movies), Doug has removed the "In Theaters Now" category. He'll likely continue to play the game in the same manner.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:58 PM on August 19


AlonzoMosleyFBI: The one I purchased steadily through most of the nineties was the Video Movie Guide by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter.

Yes, me too! I made my christmas list very specific about which one I wanted, and that I did NOT want the Maltin one. I have no idea now what I had against Maltin, but I think I thought the Martin/Porter guide was much less forgiving, and therefore better.

I worked in a library in high school and on my breaks I'd go to the stacks, find a recent Video Movie Guide (I stress, again, NOT the Maltin one) and read random reviews. When time travel happens, I'll arrange to send a message to my past self to give Maltin a chance, since being forgiving is not the worst thing that one could learn to do.
posted by Vendar at 6:10 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


When I was in film society in college, we always nominated Don't Look Now every semester so we could read the Leonard Maltin description of "notable for memorably steamy love scene and violent climax."
posted by jonp72 at 6:40 AM on August 20


I've never looked at Maltin's guides, because I only remember him as the movie critic on "Entertainment Tonight" back in the 80s (when it was the only "entertainment industry news" program around). He basically hated every movie he reviewed on the show, so I always thought of him as this jerk who I never understood how he got that job. I wrote him off as a third rate Ebert wannabe.
posted by dnash at 8:18 AM on August 20


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